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Virginia Conservation Police Notebook

December 3 – 22, 2020

To increase awareness of Conservation Police Officers’ (CPOs, or previously called game wardens) activities, the “Virginia Conservation Police Notebook” provides an overview of activities encountered by our officers who protect natural resources and people pursuing outdoor recreation in the fields, woods and waters of Virginia. These reports are prepared from the officer’s field notes by Kim McCarthy, Executive Assistant to Major Scott Naff [Operations] and Major Bryan Young [Administration] of the Law Enforcement Division of DWR. These CPO reports show the value of concerned citizens, landowners and true sportsmen in providing tips to law enforcement officers on suspected violations by lawbreakers who give other outdoor enthusiasts an undeserved bad reputation.

Region I – Tidewater

Several Charges Pending on Duck Hunters – During the week prior to Thanksgiving 2020, CPO Brian Bratton, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Officer Darin Dick, located a baited duck blind in Accomack County.  The officers monitored the blind for activity over the next several days.   On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the hunters showed up to hunt the pond.  Officers Bratton and Dick observed several people hunting from and around the blind.  They also watched the hunters fire several shots at wood ducks.   After a period of observation, the officers made contact with the hunters.   In total, there were 5 people hunting the pond and although they had shot at several ducks, they only killed 1 wood duck.  The officers checked hunting licenses and shotguns and found that 3 of the hunters did not have any licenses, or stamps, and 2 of them were also hunting with unplugged shotguns.  The officers then conducted a brief field interview with the hunters regarding the bait.  The hunters admitted they knew it was baited and that they were the ones who placed the bait in the pond the previous week. The officers collected the hunter’s information and charges are pending in U.S. District Court, in Norfolk, for hunting over bait, hunting with unplugged shotgun, and hunting without license.

Duck Hunting Over Bait on the Eastern Shore – On November 26, 2020 CPO Brian Bratton and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Officer Darin Dick began their morning on the Eastern Shore by setting up surveillance on a baited duck blind.  Shortly after sunrise, it was apparent that the hunters were not going to hunt this morning, so the officers moved to another part of the county to monitor duck hunting activity.  In their travels, the officers noticed some subjects hunting on a couple of small ponds located in the marsh.  Officer Bratton has had reports in previous years of people hunting this marsh without permission.  Due to this past information, the officers decided to conduct a compliance check on the hunters.  As the officers were walking towards the ponds in the marsh, they noticed a feeder on a tree overflowing with corn.  As they walked further towards the hunters they also noticed a tripod feeder setup.  As the officers approached the hunters on the ponds, they noticed that there was also corn spread along the shoreline of one of the ponds and in the water. In addition, the hunters had several decoys placed around the corn. The officers spoke with the hunters and determined that one of them had recently bought the property and they had permission to be there.  The landowner also admitted to placing the corn the day before.  The officers checked hunting licenses and found that one of the hunters did not have any hunting licenses.    Both hunters are new to hunting ducks and hunting in Virginia.  The officers gave several warnings and explained what is required to hunt waterfowl in Virginia.  They seized the 2 black ducks the hunters had taken and charges for hunting waterfowl over bait are pending in U.S. District Court, in Norfolk.

Region II – Southside

Repeat Road Hunting Offender Nabbed – On November 30, 2020, CPO Keith Wilson investigated a shooting from the road complaint in Mecklenburg County.   The suspect had fired three shots from the road and killed a deer on private land without permission.   K9 Officer Tyler Blanks and K9 Bruno assisted by locating shell casings.  During the interview, Officer Wilson discovered that the suspect had no hunting licenses and that he was a repeat offender of the violations.  The suspect had recently served a two-year suspension of his hunting privilege.  Officer Wilson seized a .243 caliber rifle and other evidence.  The suspect gave a full confession and took officers to the carcass that he had been dumped nearby.  An additional set of antlers were also located that were acquired illegally.  Appropriate charges were filed.

Dog Shot After Misidentified as a Bobcat – On November 14, 2020, Senior CPO Isaac Boulanger and CPO Eric Dotterer received a call from DWR Dispatch about a dog that had been shot by a hunter in Pittsylvania County.  When they arrived and spoke with hunter, he was visibly upset.  The hunter told them that while walking to his truck, he saw what he thought was a bobcat running through the pines.  He fired one shot when the animal came into an opening. Immediately after taking the shot, he realized that he had shot a dog and heard someone hollering, which turned out to be dog’s owner, who was in close proximity when the incident occurred.  While a terrible incident, the dog survived and is recovering at home. The appropriate violations were handled.

Spotlighting Complaint Turns into Trespassing Investigation – On November 15, 2020, CPO Bruce Young received a call from an employee at the Eastman LLC plant in Martinsville, Virginia, regarding in-progress spotlighting.  The employee stated that someone was riding through the field behind the plant, flashing their headlights between low and high beam.  Before Officer Young arrived, the complainant called back and said that the vehicle was leaving the area at a high rate of speed and traveling the wrong way on a one-way road.  It just so happened that the vehicle was traveling in the direction that Officer Young was approaching.  Officer Young observed headlights make a left turn into another entrance at a factory.  Officer Young pulled up to a guard house and spoke with the guard working who stated that a truck had just come in with mud all over it and it had a four-wheeler on the back.  The guard stated that he had spoken to the driver about driving too fast.  Officer Young located the vehicle, which had two occupants inside.  They stated that they messed up and should have not been on the property.  They acknowledged they were just mudding and not spotlighting for deer.  Officer Young addressed violations for operating a motor vehicle on a revoked license, driving the wrong direction on a one-way street and trespassing.

Hunting from an ATV Results in Numerous Violations – On November 19, 2020, CPO Bruce Young was on patrol in Henry County when he noticed a camouflage Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV) parked in a field next to a tree.  Upon closer inspection, it appeared to have been occupied by a person who might be hunting.  Officer Young watched the UTV and waited for the end of legal shooting hours.  As the UTV begin to exit the field, he contacted the operator.  The individual had two rifles, which he said; one was for deer and the other for coyotes.  Officer Young determined that the suspect was hunting on a neighbor’s property, which he did have permission to hunt; however, did not have a Big Game license and was not displaying blaze orange. All violations were handled appropriately.

Virginia DWR and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Cooperative Aircraft Patrol – On November 27, 2020, District 21 CPOs conducted an operation with the North Carolina Wildlife Officers to look for spotlighting violations.  North Carolina utilized their fixed-wing plane to patrol along Henry and Patrick Counties.  During this operation, CPO Sergeant James Slaughter stopped a vehicle for spotlighting which three individuals occupied. The occupants stated they were looking for coyotes and checking on property that one of them had permission to hunt.  Multiple violations are pending follow-up investigation and a discussion with the Patrick County Commonwealth Attorney.

Lending a Helping Hand in a Crisis – On November 27, 2020, CPO Adam Roberts responded to a Franklin County call reporting a suicidal subject making threats to harm himself.  Officer Roberts arrived, with Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputies, and they contacted the individual walking on the side of the road.  During conversations, the individual confirmed that he wanted to die and stated several times that he wanted to kill himself.  Tragically, this individual had been severely injured in a motorcycle accident in September 2020 and the loss of his father eleven days earlier further compounded this event.  Officer Roberts helped give the individual a sense of purpose and talked with him about his own personal experiences involving loss, and how to better deal with his emotions. The gentleman stated that Officer Roberts speaking with him, along with the other officers present, was more helpful than talking with any doctor and he thanked them.  He agreed to voluntarily seek assistance at the hospital for further evaluation.  He was transported without incident.

Compliance Check Leads to Felony and Other Violations – On November 27, 2020, Officer Nick Belotte was conducting compliance checks of a group of hunters in Charlotte County.  The passenger of a vehicle directly in front of him exited the vehicle and started to walk away.  Officer Belotte spoke with the operator of the vehicle briefly and then realized that the passenger was attempting to elude him.  Officer Belotte caught up with and identified the fleeing hunter as a convicted felon who was hunting without licenses.  There were two loaded firearms and a strong odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle.  Officer Belotte asked Officer Harbor to provide assistance.  During the interview, the operator admitted to Officer Harbor that while Officer Belotte was apprehending the passenger, he had thrown a marijuana grinder with marijuana and a blue bag containing a smoking device and methamphetamines into the weeds off the side of the road.  K9 Officer Blanks was contacted for assistance.  Arrests were made for license violations, obstruction of justice violations, and felony firearm possession.

Tree Stand Incident (Campbell County) – During the first week of December, CPO Cory Harbour received information regarding a possible tree stand incident that had previously occurred.  Officer Harbour began his investigation and confirmed that it had occurred.  In this incident, his brother who called EMS for assistance had initially located the victim.  Getting the victim out of the woods proved to be complicated but an ATV, paired with a backboard, was ultimately used to transport the victim to an ambulance.  Officer Harbour located the permanent homemade stand where the incident occurred and followed-up with the victim at the hospital the next day.  The investigation concluded that tree stand failure and no safety harness were the main factors that lead to the incident.

Tree Stand Incident (Amherst County) – During the second week of general firearms season, CPO Cory Harbour received an off-duty call about a tree stand incident in the National Forest near the Pedlar River.  Officer Harbour had an extended time of arrival and did not arrive on scene prior to the victim being airlifted from the scene by a Med-flight crew.  Officer Harbour followed-up on the incident and his investigation concluded that the incident occurred due improper use of a climbing stand and no safety harness.  Officer Harbour recently checked on the victim and he is well on the road to recovery.

Digging into a Lead Uncovered Illegal Acts – On November 26, 2020, CPO Nicholas Belotte received information about a trophy buck that was killed in Charlotte County, on a Sunday, but that was not checked until the following day.  While conducting his investigation, Officer Belotte received word that the hunter did not kill the buck while hunting with his hunt club.  Officer Belotte spoke with the hunter and gained a confession about game checking violations.  Furthermore, Officer Belotte received a confession that the hunter had trespassed on posted property and killed the buck at night with the use of a flashlight.  Appropriate charges were placed.

Closed Season Bear Investigation – On December 3, 2020, CPO Matthew Sandy received information that a large bear had been killed in Mecklenburg County on November 29th, which was prior to the opening of the firearms season.  Officer Sandy followed up on leads and then on the following Saturday, December 5th, he made contact with the suspects.  Officer Sandy interviewed the involved parties and obtained confessions that they had killed the bear prior to the legal season.  Appropriate charges will be placed.

Investigation Yields Road Hunting Violations – On December 3, 2020, CPO Matthew Sandy received a call about shooting from the road after legal shooting hours.  The caller was not able to confirm that a deer had been killed.  Officer Sandy arrived at the locations and began watching the area for any illegal activity.  A short time later, a truck approached, slowed down, stopped and then drove off.  Approximately thirty minutes later, the vehicle returned and stopped in the road again.  Officer Sandy could hear something heavy being loaded onto the truck.  While following the vehicle, Officer Sandy could see a deer lying on top of the dog box. Officer Sandy made contact with the subjects in the vehicle and obtained confessions of shooting after hours, trespassing, and shooting from the vehicle.  Appropriate charges are pending.

Road Hunting Violator Nabbed – On December 4, 2020, CPO Matthew Sandy received a complaint about someone shooting at a deer on private property.  The caller gave Officer Sandy a description of the vehicle, which had a company name on it.  Officer Sandy located the owner of the company and found out who was in the area when the incident occurred.  Officer Sandy identified a suspect and obtained a confession of shooting across the road and attempting to kill a deer out of season.  The violator also did not have a license, was shooting after hours and trespassing.  Appropriate charges will be placed.

Trespassing Call Turns into Illegal Deer Harvest Violations Detected – On December 5, 2020, CPO Matthew Sandy received a trespassing complaint.  Officer Sandy and Officer Keith Wilson went to the location and determined that no trespassing had occurred. However, the officers did locate evidence of a deer being killed and loaded up on a truck.  Officer Sandy and Wilson began interviewing members of the local hunt club and were told that a twelve-year-old girl had killed an antlerless deer there.  Officer Sandy requested K9 Officer Blanks and K9 Bruno to assist with evidence collection.  K9 Bruno located one spent shotgun shell casing.  After several additional interviews, a twenty-year-old man finally admitted to killing the deer.  The officers discovered that several people had been in possession of this illegally killed deer.  Appropriate charges are pending.

Trespassing Case Uncovers Serious Violations – On December 3, 2020, CPO Nick Sumner received information of a convicted felon hunting and trespassing on posted property in Buckingham County.  CPO Sumner spoke with a caller who said they knew who one of two male subjects was.  Initially, a photograph had been posted on social media by the hunter who leases the property seeking assistance in identifying the trespasser.  CPO Sumner confirmed that the suspect was a convicted felon.  Multiple arrest warrants and a search warrant were obtained for the subject and his residence in Louisa County.  With the assistance of CPOs Paul Inge, Jacob Chaffin, Alan Hatmaker, Richard Howald, and the Lousia County Sheriff’s Office, Officer Sumner arrested the suspect without incident.  During the search, several pieces of drug paraphernalia, marijuana, and an unidentified white powdery substance were recovered from the residence. Additional charges are pending and the investigation is ongoing.

VSP Checking Detail, Nabs Spotlighter – On December 5, 2020, a VSP Trooper contacted CPO Nick Sumner about a possible hunting violation in Buckingham County.  The Trooper stated that a truck had approached their checkpoint with a freshly killed doe.  CPO Sumner arrived to investigate.  In addition to two male occupants in the truck, he also saw a dead doe between a dog box and bed panel.  When asked about the deer, the driver stated that a juvenile had shot it earlier in the day.  Using his investigative skills, CPO Sumner was quickly able to obtain a confession from the passenger who stated that he shot the deer from the window at night with the aid of the vehicle headlights.  The firearm used was still in possession and seized as evidence. When asked about the empty shell, the driver advised CPO Sumner that he threw it out of the vehicle after they killed the deer.  Charges are pending for both subjects.

Prohibited Person Apprehended – In November 2020, District 22 CPOs received information about several hunting violations occurring on a particular piece of property in Botetourt County.  Additional information indicated that the individual perpetuating the violations was prohibited from possessing firearms.  On November 27, 2020, CPOs Brett Clawson, Tyler Routon, and Michael Morris patrolled the property and located the individual actively hunting with a firearm.  The subject was taken into custody without incident and transported to the Botetourt County magistrate’s officer where the appropriate action was taken.

Information Leads to Multiple Hunting Violations – On December 1, 2020, CPO Bruce Young received a call about an individual who had placed a ground blind in a field baited with corn.  The next day Officer Young was on patrol and observed the described truck parked exactly where he was told it would be.  He contacted the hunter and found that he was licensed; however, the hunter denied having knowledge of any bait.  Inspecting the site, Officer Young located a fresh pile of corn in the vicinity where deer were when he arrived, approximately 30 yards from the ground blind.  After a brief conversation, the hunter admitted to placing the bait out a few days prior.   All violations, including no blaze orange, were handled appropriately.

Hunting from the Roadway – On December 5, 2020, Conservation Police Lieutenant Greg Funkhouser and CPO Eric Dotterer were on patrol in Pittsylvania County when they approached several trucks parked in the road right-a-way near a bridge.  As they approached, Officer Dotterer observed a hunter standing by a truck, with a firearm in his hand, watching the left side of the road.  The hunter then looked towards them and immediately placed the gun back in the vehicle.  Officer Dotterer recognized the hunter as someone he has received frequent complaints on for hunting from the road.  After some conversation and asking why he was standing in the road with his firearm, the hunter stated that he was headed back to the truck and added that he should not have stopped to look back toward the dogs.  Officer Dotterer noted that he did not hear any dogs running and addressed all violations appropriately.

Illegally Dumped Carcass Results in Bait Case – On December 6, 2020, Conservation Police K9 Officer Wes Billings and CPO Dale Owens were on patrol in Patrick County when they stopped to check a deer carcass.  Looking around the area, Officer Owens located a bait pile.  During his investigation, he located a suspect and interviewed him.  The suspect admitted to placing the bait.  During their conversation, Officer Owens asked him about two other deer that he had acknowledged harvesting.  As it turns out, neither of those deer had been checked in.  Multiple violations were addressed.

K9 Assistance Makes Quick Work in Finding Baited Area – On December 10, 2020, Conservation Police K9 Officer Wes Billings and CPO Dale Owens were checking for baited areas in Patrick County.  K9 Officer Billings’ K9 partner very quickly discovered a baited treestand.  As the officers were leaving the area, the suspect arrived to go hunting.  Officer Owens obtained a confession from him and confirmed he had placed the bait for hunting.  All violations were properly handled.

Trespassing Investigation Ends in Trip to Jail for Violator – On December 3, 2020, CPO Bruce Young responded to a trespassing call.  The complainant had observed someone in all camouflage carrying what appeared to be a rifle, without any blaze orange.  The complainant explained that he had permission to bow hunt the property and had confirmed with the landowner that nobody else had permission.  Officer Young searched the location, spoke with the landowner, but found nothing.  While inspecting different access points, Officer Young located evidence that lead him to believe someone was trespassing.  Some of the evidence was adjacent to a local Pawn Shop which Officer Young noticed had security cameras.  On December 7th, Officer Young obtained video of the suspect entering and later exiting the property and later washing his car and getting change to wash his vehicle.  Officer Young recognized him from previous hunting violations.  Officer Young conducted an interview in which the suspect admitted to hunting the property on December 3rd with a shotgun.  He stated that he had asked the landowner last year if he could hunt the property and gained permission.

The suspect was not properly licensed, had not worn blaze orange and was Driving a Motor Vehicle While Revoked.  He also had an active warrant for his arrest out of Martinsville City for violating a court order pertaining to driving while revoked, his third offense.  The suspect was taken into custody and all wildlife charges were handled appropriately.

Good Investigative Work Uncovers the Truth – On December 8, 2020, CPO Bruce Young received a call about a trespassing incident that occurred on December 6th.  The caller stated that a friend had sent him a picture showing a “nice buck” that someone harvested.  Looking at the characteristics of the buck, he was certain it was the same one he had on his trail camera.  Officer Young exhausted all efforts attempting to determine if the deer had been checked in.  He also soon realized that the suspect had purchased his state hunting and big game licenses at 3:54pm on the same day he had potentially harvested the deer.  Officer Young spoke with the suspect who stated that he harvested the deer on family land.  The suspect claimed that he purchased his hunting licenses at 3:54pm and had harvested the deer around 4:40pm.  He also showed Officer Young where he called his father at 4:45pm to tell him that he had shot the deer.

On December 9th, Officer Young returned to re-interview the suspect since his story didn’t match the evidence.  Upon realizing Officer Young was not giving up, the suspect apologized and said he was being dishonest.  He explained that he was nervous.  Officer Young traveled to the new location of harvest to verify the story.  Upon arrival, Officer Young located evidence of a deer kill, a bottle of Doe in Estrus, a spent shotgun shell casing, an older bait pile mixed with minerals and corn. The Doe in Estrus lure and minerals were identified as illegal substances.  All five wildlife violations, which included trespassing and hunting over bait, were handled appropriately.

Unable to Make the Getaway – On December 13, 2020, while on patrol in Henry County, CPO Bruce Young observed two subjects bank fishing across the Smith River in the designated stocked trout waters.  He immediately circled around to the other side to where they had parked and as he approached, he observed the passenger door closing.  Looking inside the vehicle, he confirmed it was the same two individuals that he had just observed fishing.  The person sitting in the driver’s seat opened his door and said, “You’re going to have to write me a ticket, you got me.”  Both subjects were out of breath and admitted that they had seen Officer Young across the river and they had ran back to their vehicle to avoid being caught.  Neither person had a freshwater or trout fishing license. All violations were handled appropriately.

Road Hunting Investigation leads to Felony Charges – On December 1st, CPO Stephen Ritchie began investigating an investigation in Nelson County, pertaining to a deer that was shot from the road and then drug behind a motor vehicle.  He spent several hours on this investigation due to one suspect giving him misleading information, then attempting to hide the vehicle, moving firearms and then the deer.  Officer Ritchie had not been able to contact the second suspect and was leaving the area when he met both of them in the vehicle with expired tags.  He attempted a vehicle stop but after a brief attempt to elude, the suspects bailed from the vehicle on a dead-end road.  Officer Ritchie pursued on foot and quickly caught the second suspect.  There were numerous firearms, lots of ammunition, and also methamphetamines in the vehicle.  The second suspect turned out to be a convicted felon and one of the main drug dealers in the county.  Officer Ritchie arrested that suspect with assistance from CPO John Daniel.  A day later, he caught up with the original suspect.  Several charges are pending.

Diligent Investigation Uncovers More Than Poaching – On December 15th, CPO Cory Harbour was investigating a trespassing to hunt, hunting over bait, and a possible marijuana grow in Campbell County.  He had located a baited stand with evidence of a recently killed deer and a harvested marijuana crop.  He identified the suspects and soon made contact with the primary one.  During his investigation, he discovered a large amount of harvested marijuana, narcotics, a fresh trophy deer rack and hide, and several firearms and ammunition.  The suspect was a convicted felon and Officer Harbour arrested him for possession of firearms and ammunition and other felonies for the drugs.  Charges are pending on the second suspect.

Keen Eye Leads to Multiple Confessions – On November 28, 2020, CPO Tyler Routon received information regarding illegal hunting activity in Botetourt County.  Officer Routon located the suspect and initiated an interview during which he noticed several kernels of corn on the rear hitch carrier of the vehicle.  When confronted with the observation, the suspect admitted to hunting over bait, trespassing to hunt, killing deer illegally over bait, failing to check deer, hunting from a vehicle, and shooting from a vehicle while stopped in the highway.  The appropriate action was taken.

Spotlighter Caught Thanks to Observant Citizen – On December 5, 2020, CPO Tyler Routon received a complaint in reference to spotlighting in Botetourt County.  The caller provided a license plate number so Officer Routon responded to the suspect’s residence.  He conducted an interview during which time the suspect admitted to stopping in the highway and using a hand-held light to look for deer in an adjacent field.  The appropriate action was taken.

Intoxicated Subject Arrested – On December 11, 2020, CPO Brett Clawson was on patrol in Bedford County when he observed a taxi-cab stopped in the highway.  Officer Clawson initiated his emergency lights and approached the vehicle when he heard the driver state “he has a knife.”  Officer Clawson ordered the driver out of the vehicle to ensure his safety and then placed the passenger in investigative detention.  Follow-up investigation revealed the driver and passenger were engaged in a verbal dispute.  The passenger did have a knife but had not unsheathed it or used it for any criminal activity.  However, the passenger was heavily intoxicated and so Officer Clawson took him into custody and transported him to the Bedford County magistrate’s office where the appropriate action was taken.

Region III – Southwest

CPO Wensel Retires – On December 2, 2020 District 31 CPO’s honored Lee Wensel at his final District meeting. CPO Wensel will be retiring in January 2021, after 38 years of service to the Commonwealth. CPO Wensel reminisced about previous cases and laughed with fellow District officers about previous memories.  He has been a great resource for area constituents and will be greatly missed!

CPO Participates in “Shop with a Hero” – On December 12, 2020 Conservation Police Sergeant Daniel Hall participated in the “Shop with a Hero” event in Smyth County.  This event, coordinated through the Marion Police Department and hoisted by Walmart at their Marion store location was accomplished with a variation, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The variation, which entailed that those participating and utilizing PPE equipment, shopped within the store for a child, whose name they were given; and then proceeded outside where they met each child’s parent(s) or legal guardian and forwarded the child’s gifts to them, following social distancing guidelines. The event involved shopping for (50) children identified as meeting participation guidelines based on need, with each child receiving $ 100.00 for clothing and toys that they normally would not be able to afford for this coming Christmas. Walmart donations for the event totaled $ 5000.00, with many onsite donations by citizens patronizing the store during the event. Police Officers from the Marion Police Department, Smyth County Sheriff’s Office, Smyth County Volunteer Fire Departments and EMS, Va. Correction Officers, and Va. State Police participated in the event.

Illegal Deer Harvest – On Tuesday December 15, 2020, CPO Rutledge received a call from DWR dispatch in reference to a shots fired call in the Town of Christiansburg. CPO Rutledge contacted Christiansburg Police Department for details. Units from both agencies responded to a residential area and located a small spike buck that had been shot with a crossbow lying next to the caller’s house. CPO Rutledge arrived on scene and located a male subject that lived at the residence across the road from where the deer had been shot. The male subject admitted he shot the deer with his crossbow. The suspect stated he made a bad decision and just wanted some deer meat. The suspect was charged with killing a deer during closed season and two additional charges along with multiple warnings.

Region IV – Mountains & Shenandoah Valley and Northern Piedmont

CPOs Investigate Bait Ground Blind – Stafford – On November 25, 2020, CPOs Hatmaker and Sanitra were patrolling an area in Stafford County in an attempt to catch two individuals who were connected to alleged poaching activity and hunting over bait in the area.  Both CPOs arrived at a ground blind where a feeder with corn was observed, along with a pumpkin and mineral lick.  Hatmaker and Sanitra decided to wait to see if anyone came out for an evening hunt.  While waiting, the homeowner of the property came out for an afternoon stroll with his dog.  CPOs spoke with the homeowner, and were able to determine that he had placed the bait.  The appropriate charges were issued.

Thanksgiving Day Stafford Assist – On November 26, 2020, CPOs Quarles and Hatmaker observed Stafford County Sheriff Deputies out on a traffic stop with multiple individuals.  Deputies had one individual on the ground, and a deputy placing another person in cuffs while another deputy had his taser out and watching the other people in the vehicle.  Officers Hatmaker and Quarles immediately responded to assist the deputies.  While on the scene, the CPOs learned the suspect in cuffs had attempted to run from the deputies because he was wanted out of Spotsylvania County.  While both CPOs spoke to the individuals in the vehicle, Deputies asked one of the occupants to step out of the vehicle.  This individual was placed in custody for providing false identification to law enforcement.  The suspect told deputies he lied about his identity because he thought he was wanted.  It was determined that this individual was not actually wanted.  Deputies later arrested the driver of the vehicle for concealing a machete.  Through investigation, Deputies learned of possible controlled substances being contained in the vehicle, and the two remaining occupants were asked to step out of the vehicle.  A search of the vehicle yielded controlled substances, and CPOs were asked to detain both females on scene.  Officer Hatmaker spoke to the two females about their lives and where they were headed.  Both began to cry and wished they were home spending Thanksgiving with their families.  One of the females then voluntarily told a deputy that she had lied about her identity to avoid arrest.  She provided her real name, and it was determined that she was also wanted out of Spotsylvania County.  All occupants of the vehicle were also charged with Felony Possession of a Controlled Substance.

Baiter Caught with His Own Cameras – Late, during the deer season of 2019, CPO Owen Heine was walking in woods near the George Washington National Forest when he found an area that appeared to have been previously baited.  Heine saw a pulley system in the woods near two tree stands.  The pulley system appeared to have held some kind of feeder that was now gone.  The ground under the pulley system was bare but no bait was visible.  Early in the deer season of 2020, CPO Heine returned to find a corn- filled feeder hanging from this same pulley system.  After checking the tree stands on numerous occasions and never finding anyone hunting from them, Heine decided to seize the suspect’s trail cameras for evidence and view the footage on the SD cards after obtaining a search warrant. Heine seized two cameras, one over corn scattered in a wide area in the woods and another over a new mineral brick.  Heine left his CPO business card in place of each camera seized and waited. A few days later, Heine received a phone call from the landowner wanting to know why Heine took his cameras.  After a short conversation, the caller was identified and admitted baiting the area but insisted the deer he killed was not over the bait!  The appropriate charge was placed.

Conservation Police Assist with Multi-Agency Terminated Vehicle Pursuit – On the afternoon of December 12, 2020 Senior Officer Billhimer was checking bear hunters in Rockingham County when he was notified that several jurisdictions had been engaged in a pursuit that had just been terminated. A BOL was issued for a green Honda in the immediate vicinity of Billhimer’s location. The pursuit had been called off when the Honda had turned on a gravel backroad traveling at over 90 mph. Officer Billhimer used his tracking skills and picked up a light trail where the vehicle traveled up a private driveway and then went off road. The car was hidden in a thick wooded area about 200 yards off the private driveway.  Cash and a white powdery substance were observed on the ground around the now vacant car. Conservation Police Communications Supervisor Kevin Leonard was able to assist with maps to bring the officers who were chasing the vehicle to Officer Billhimer’s location. Senior Officer Kester responded and helped look for the suspect who was out on foot. The Sheriff’s Office obtained warrants for felony eluding and possession of Schedule I and II controlled substances. The white substance noted at the scene, and suspected to be fentanyl, was tested and found not to be harmful to the officers.

Powhatan Bait Case Solved – On December 12, 2020, CPO Chris Heberling investigated a previously identified baited tree stand in Powhatan Co. The location had been baited with a buried mineral block which had been exposed by the deer feeding on it. CPO Heberling located a subject in the tree stand hunting and without the required blaze orange/pink clothing. The subject was charged with hunting deer over bait and hunting without blaze orange/pink.

Young Sleuth Assists CPOs – Nine year-old Robert Brittingham was recently awarded the Virginia Conservation Police Law Enforcement Supporter Certificate of Appreciation and a CPO Challenge Coin in recognition of his efforts and assistance in a criminal investigation on Nov. 21,2020. His family’s home had been struck by a bullet, and officers were having difficulty locating and retrieving the projectile. It had penetrated two walls, hit a stud, and (unknown to the officers) fallen below the floorboards into the home’s narrow and dark, dirt crawl space. On his own initiative, Robert went through a tiny entrance, and commando-crawled through the dark, narrow crawl space under the house until he found the bullet. Robert went above and beyond to assist the officers in recovering a critical piece of evidence in the case. His determination and bravery are well deserving of this recognition.

Special Operations

DWR K9 Unit Shows Appreciation – In appreciation of her continuing support of the DWR Human Remains Detection training, Senior Officer Wes Billings presented one of our newly minted DWR K9 Challenge Coin to Nina Cipriani.  Ms. Cipriani has been providing training and training aids to Officer Billings and Officer Jim Patrillo since July and hope to complete HDR certification in the spring of 2021.

  • December 31, 2020